On Friday, SPIN and Pitchfork revealed that Matt Mondanile, the ex-Real Estate guitarist who also performs as a solo artist under the name Ducktails, was dismissed from the band amid allegations of “unacceptable treatment of women.” Mondanile issued a blanket denial of wrongdoing to Pitchfork. When contacted by SPIN via email on Friday regarding the allegations and the statement we had received from the band about his departure, Mondanile declined to address either directly.
In the months leading up to the publication of SPIN’s initial story, we spoke with multiple women who gave accounts of alleged sexual misconduct from Mondanile. In the following days, more women came to us with stories of his behavior. These on-the-record accounts, from seven women in total, largely involve allegations of Mondanile touching, kissing, and groping them without their consent. Two women alleged that Mondanile groped them while they were sleeping, and a third said that he did so while she was trying to sleep.
Due to the seriousness of these allegations, we reached out to Mondanile again early this morning with a detailed account of each. Since Friday, he has not responded to SPIN’s multiple attempts to contact him for comment regarding the specific nature of the allegations, or made any public statement about his dismissal from Real Estate. After one of the sources in this story tweeted publicly about Mondanile the day before our first story was published, he sent her multiple messages pleading with her and tacitly acknowledging that he recognized he’d behaved inappropriately with women in the past. “I just don’t know how to say this other than I’m not so old and I have so much life to live,” he wrote in part. “I’ve learned from my mistakes and been very good for a long time.”
UPDATE: On October 20, Mondanile’s attorneys released a statement regarding the allegations and his departure from Real Estate. It includes a quote from Mondanile, who calls his past behavior “insensitive” and “inappropriate.” Read the full statement here.
The allegations against Mondanile in this story span about a decade. Nearly every person I spoke to insisted that his alleged behavior has long been talked about in his social circle. In their initial statement, Real Estate wrote that Mondanile was fired from the band when the allegations of misconduct “were brought to our attention,” in February 2016. In a follow-up statement to SPIN, the members elaborated about their decision not to go public with the reason for Mondanile’s dismissal until pressed to do so by journalists this year. “At the time of Matt’s dismissal from the band, the women concerned requested privacy and we honored their wishes,” they wrote. “We remain in complete support of the affected women, and will continue to stand by any decisions they make regarding the further pursuit of this matter.”
For years, online and among those in the indie scene, rumors have abounded about Mondanile. The widespread nature of these rumors became more evident after the publication of Friday’s story, when several more people, including indie music industry insiders, contacted SPIN to say they’d heard about Mondanile’s behavior with women or allegedly experienced it themselves. Best Coast songwriter Bethany Cosentino tweeted about Mondanile Friday and in following days, writing that he “was an absolute creep” and that women “will inevitably come forward.”
“I have it on good confidence from multiple people, some of whom are acquainted with his victims, some of whom are very well-acquainted with Matt, that Matt of Ducktails has a very broad and deep history of mistreating women,” wrote a pseudonymous poster on the music message board Hipinion in May. “I’ve been waiting for years for this to get ‘out’ and I continue to feel surprised that it hasn’t,” echoed another poster this month. The author goes on to describe it as “one of the biggest open secrets in music.”
Mary, a young artist based in New York who asked to remain anonymous in this story out of fear of retaliation, first met Mondanile at a Real Estate show at the Brooklyn rock club Baby’s All Right in December 2013, when she was 19 years old. She’d been given tickets to the 21+ show by a friendly acquaintance who worked at a label, and had to sneak past a bouncer. Mondanile, who is 32, would have been 28 at the time. After the show, Mondanile and his friends approached Mary and her friends to say hello. Mary had recently moved to New York for college, and she remembers marveling at the opportunity to actually talk to a member of a band she loved. In her Florida hometown, it was unlikely that Real Estate would even come through on tour.
According to Mary, after about 10 minutes of conversation, Mondanile asked her to show him to the bathroom of the venue. She explained to him how to find it, and he told her she’d misunderstood him: he wanted her to show him where the bathroom was, not tell him. She says that she agreed, somewhat uneasily, and led him down the hall. When they passed the door to a broom closet, she said, Mondanile opened it, physically forced her inside, and began aggressively kissing her.
“He shoved me in there, shoved his tongue down my throat, then closed the door and left, and left me in there,” Mary said. “I was so shocked and distraught, because nothing like this had ever happened to me before. Afterward, I was crying and my friends were consoling me.”
Later that night, Mondanile began texting her, asking her where she was. Eventually, she said, he arrived uninvited at her dormitory in Manhattan’s West Village, asking if he could come inside. Mary said that she did not give Mondanile her phone number or her address, and believes that the person who gave her the tickets provided her information to him. Mary told Mondanile he could not come inside, and he asked her if she would come outside to sit in his car and talk instead. Figuring it would be a quick apology or clarification about his behavior earlier in the evening, she agreed, grabbing her cell phone but not her wallet before she left. “I was hesitant and it felt like something was wrong, but I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt because I was young and a nice person and easily trusting,” she said.
In the car, Mondanile asked Mary if she would come with him back to his apartment in Brooklyn, where they could talk more comfortably. Again, with hesitancy, she agreed. In her account to SPIN, she again mentioned wanting to give Mondanile “the benefit of the doubt.” But instead of driving to Brooklyn, she said, he took her to his family’s home in Ridgewood, New Jersey. She asked him to take her back to the city, and he told her he would do it in the morning. “I was afraid, and the entire night I was trying to stay awake,” she said. “It was five in the morning, and he kept trying to move closer to me, and I was moving away,” she said. “The best way I could describe it was that he was like a dog, dry-humping me.”
When the sun rose, Mary again asked to be taken home. Mondanile seemed angry, she said, and drove her to the Ridgewood train station. When she pointed out that she had no money for the fare because she’d left her wallet in her dorm, “he threw a 20 dollar bill at me,” she added.
“I was hysterically crying the entire train ride, because I knew it was wrong,” she said. “I never wanted any of that. What seemed like a harmless interaction turned into a spiraling chain of events.”
Mary’s story about the Baby’s All Right closet is similar to an account from a woman named Emily Langland, who knew Mondanile as a friendly acquaintance before attending a Los Angeles house party where he was also a guest last year. Langland and Mondanile exchanged polite conversation early in the night, and encountered each other again later, as Langland was returning from the bathroom. According to Langland, Mondanile stopped her in the hallway and asked her where the bathroom was. “He then grabbed my arm and pulled me into the bathroom and pushed himself on top of me trying to kiss me while still holding a firm grasp on my arm,” Langland told me. “While he was trying to kiss me, I was not giving him anything back. I tried pulling back and yelled, ‘What the fuck are you doing? Let me go.’ He replied back to me, ‘What? I thought you wanted to do this, you showed me into the bathroom.’”
“Thankfully, I was sober and ran out out of the washroom back up to the patio and told my friends I had to leave immediately,” she added. “I am just so thankful that night that I stayed sober, because I don’t know what he could have been capable of if I was unable to fight back and use my voice, which is really fucking scary to think about.”
The oldest allegation I received about Mondanile originates from his time as a student at Hampshire College, about a decade ago. A fellow student named Elizabeth, who asked that her last name be omitted from this piece, said that she played in a band with Mondanile, and had a friendly relationship with him, in 2005.
At Hampshire, Elizabeth lived in a small on-campus housing unit with eight dorm rooms and communal living and cooking areas. It was customary for students to leave the front doors of these buildings unlocked, and she regularly left the door to her individual room unlocked as well. At least twice that year, she said, she awoke in the middle of the night to find that Mondanile had entered the building, walked up to her third-floor dorm room, gotten into bed with her, and begun groping her while she slept. Because of the lapsed years and the fact that she was waking from sleep, she does not recall the specific ways in which he touched her. “He would say, ‘I just took a Viagra, I can’t help myself,’” she said. “He basically molested me in my sleep. My way of eventually dealing with that was to lock my door.”
Justine (not her real name), a woman who requested full anonymity in this story in order to speak freely, also alleged that Mondanile once groped her while she slept. In 2009, she said, when she was 23 years old and Real Estate was a buzzy new band, she attended a loft party where Mondanile was also present. She’d been acquainted with him for a few months before then. “He’s a super charming, handsome guy, kind of quirky,” she said. “But I didn’t think of him as creepy. He just doesn’t come off like that, which certainly helps him get closer to women.”
Justine crashed in a large communal sleeping area in the living room at the end of the party that night. She awoke the next morning, she said, to find that Mondanile was laying behind her, grinding up against her, running his hands up and down her hips, grabbing her breasts through her shirt. A handful of people were still asleep around her, and another group was already up and making coffee in the next room. Groggy from the evening’s revelry, she couldn’t tell how long he’d been groping her in her sleep. “I was laying on my side and he had scooted up behind me and was dry humping me,” she said. “I freaked out at him — ‘How dare you disrespect me?’ He sort of laughed and pretended it didn’t happen.”
Justine and Mondanile crossed paths occasionally after that, she said, but he never tried anything physical with her again. Still, years later, she remains shaken by the experience. “It’s really painful now to think about how I justified it,” she said.
A musician named Kryssi requested that her last name not be used, because “I don’t want to be associated with him for the rest of my life.” Kryssi first met Mondanile while playing a show with Ducktails in Western Massachusetts in Spring 2008, when she was 21. Afterward, he contacted her band about helping him to book a show in New Haven, where she lived, for the following September. Mondanile and some other touring musicians crashed at Kryssi and her roommates’ apartment after that second show, she said. At some point during the evening, Kryssi retreated to her attic bedroom, which she described as a “really private” place: every other room in the apartment was on one level, and hers was on another, behind a closed door and up a tall staircase.
Once in her room, Kryssi prepared to go to bed, getting into her underwear and taking out her contact lenses. By her account, later in the evening–she doesn’t remember exactly how much later–she heard her door open and saw Mondanile enter and sit down on her bed. “He came all the way up the stairs, which was crazy,” she said. “What are you doing in here? You can’t hang out in my room,” she remembers telling him.
Mondanile began kissing her, she said, and she stopped him, reminding him that he had come into her room uninvited, and that she had a boyfriend. Mondanile deflected her protests, she said. “Your boyfriend is not going to know,” she remembers him saying. “He was trying to convince me that my couch was too small, and he couldn’t possibly be asked to stay downstairs,” she added. It was only after Kryssitold him that her boyfriend had a key to the apartment and could come in at any moment that he relented and left her room.
“He was kind of whiny, but I was also scared, because he’s a really tall guy,” she said. “When he came into my room, he was a real stranger. We had no connection. Sometimes in life there are those situations: ‘I knew you wanted me to kiss you!’ But I didn’t see how he could possibly see this as one of them. We barely talked at either of the shows. It sucked, because I felt like I was being treated like ‘Hello, woman body.’”
When Kryssi played another show with Mondanile a few days later, she said, he barely acknowledged her presence.
Carly Susman, a designer who lives in New York City, first met Mondanile in the summer of 2012. Real Estate was riding the success of its second album Days into prestigious slots performing at festivals like Coachella, Pitchfork, and Primavera Sound, and she was a 21-year-old fan. One night, she was out at a bar in Brooklyn with another 21-year-old woman she’d met through Tumblr, where they bonded in part over their admiration for Mondanile. (Susman’s friend, who I’ll call Lucy, spoke to me for this story but requested that her name not be used.) At the time, Susman lived in New Jersey and Lucy lived in Florida. Between IRL hangouts, they had a running joke that the next time they got together, Mondanile would be there too. They were joined by a third woman, a friend of Lucy’s, who Susman met for the first time that night.
While out at the bar, Lucy decided on a lark to message Mondanile on Facebook, knowing that he lived in Brooklyn. He quickly responded, she said, asking her whether the friends she was with were women. When she said yes, he invited them to his apartment. After they arrived, the three women sat around with Mondanile, chatting and listening to music. Lucy described the encounter as a “super weird fan moment.” “I can’t believe this is happening,” she said. “We’re really at his house?”
At around 1 a.m., Mondanile said that he was ready to go to sleep, and asked them if they wanted to crash in his bed. They agreed. According to Susman and Lucy, at some point, Mondanile began coming on to them simultaneously, trying to kiss them and touching them through their clothes. “I made it very clear that I was not interested,” Susman said. “I don’t think I said anything, but I didn’t reciprocate. There was no reciprocation on my part.” Lucy said that she also was not interested, but was less certain of whether she’d made that clear to Mondanile.
Mondanile eventually stopped, but minutes later, when Susman was trying to go to sleep, “he was getting touchy in my chest area,” she said. “I’ve never considered it assault, but it was not consensual. I was facing the wall, and his hand came out of nowhere. I think I slowly pushed it away.”
What happened next, she said, bothered her more. According to Susman and Lucy, Mondanile began engaging in consensual manual and oral sex with the third woman, while the two who’d just rebuffed him were crammed against the wall in the same bed, trying to ignore what was happening. SPIN was unable to contact the third woman, but both Lucy and Susman believed these acts to be consensual.
Both women were clear with me about the complicated dynamics of the situation that night. They agree broadly about the sequence of events, but differ slightly on the question of whether Mondanile wronged them, and to what degree. Neither believes that Mondanile assaulted them, but both agree that he took advantage of their status as young and impressionable fans in an attempt at getting something sexual out of them. “There was definitely a thing, especially among younger Tumblr users: A lot of people had a crush on Matt, because he was the cute indie musician,” Susman said. “I figured, ‘It’s three of us together and this one dude, so it will probably be fine.’ And it was fine, but it wasn’t fine.”
“Wow, this is really sketchy, and really kind of sad, that my interaction with someone that I was listening to a lot has to be like this,” Lucy added. “It’s fucked up that he acted like that off the bat, and just went for it without asking us if we were interested in hooking up. It was something that he expected out of us because we showed up. ”
Between the earliest allegation in this story and Mondanile’s dismissal from Real Estate, eleven years passed, eight of which overlap with his membership in the band. Despite their apparent status as an “open secret,” there are a variety of reasons why these allegations may have taken so long to become public. The women who contacted SPIN spoke, understandably, about fears that they’d be ostracized from valuable social and music-industry connections if they came forward, that they wouldn’t be believed or taken seriously, that they’d become an unwilling center of attention if they made their names public. One woman spoke extensively about the psychological and emotional fallout from her experience with Mondanile, and said that she’d barely spoken to any friends about what had happened to her. Mary, the accuser who met Mondanile after a 2013 Real Estate show in Brooklyn, claims that she spoke to an industry friend and mutual acquaintance of Mondanile’s about his behavior that night and was brushed off.
There’s also the question of how much time elapsed between Mondanile’s fellow Real Estate members learning about the allegations and their decision to fire him from the band. “Matt Mondanile was fired in February 2016 when allegations of unacceptable treatment of women were brought to our attention,” the band’s initial statement read in part. But it seems within the realm of possibility that these apparently widely-discussed claims would have reached their ears sometime before then. When pressed for further clarification of the timeline of Mondanile’s dismissal, the band did not respond.
If you or anyone you know has had experiences with Mondanile or further information on this story, and you would like to talk to a reporter about it, feel free to send us an email. You can reach the writer of this story directly at [email protected].
Editor’s note: The account of Kryssi was initially published using the assumed name of “Madeleine,” and did not include the name of the city where the incident allegedly happened. After publication, Kryssi contacted SPIN asking to use her real first name and for the city name to be included.